Written Answers. - Retail Sector.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

40 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she is concerned at the reported profiteering by British retail multiples; and the steps, if any, she will take to ensure that consumers are protected following the entry of these multiples into our domestic market. [19883/98]

I have seen recent media reportage relating to a report commissioned by the UK Office of Fair Trading into market power and consolidation in British food retailing. The media reportage referred to the UK. While concerns stopping short of profiteering were reported, the indications were that the OFT regard the report as unofficial and representing an input into their further investigation into whether such retailers were abusing their market power. I have received no reports of profiteering by British retail multiples in Ireland. If complaints in this area were made, I would of course be concerned.

The law dealing with regulation of competition is different in Ireland. The Competition Act, 1991, specifically prohibits anti-competitive practices, including price fixing and the abuse of a dominant position. Under the Act, any person aggrieved in consequence of anti-competitive activity has a right of action in the courts for relief, by way of injunction or declaration and damages, including exemplary damages.

The Competition (Amendment) Act, 1996, contains offences and penalty provisions for breaches of the rules of competition as set out in the 1991 Act. In addition, it provides for public enforcement of the rules of competition. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has appointed a Director of Competition Enforcement to give effect to the public enforcement provisions.
As a result of the enactment of the Competition (Amendment) Act, 1996, there are now two alternative ways of pursuing allegations of breaches of competition rules. If the Deputy has any evidence of anti-competitive behaviour it is possible to take a civil action under section 6 of the Competition Act, 1991. Alternatively, a complaint can be lodged with the Director of Competition Enforcement requesting him to investigate the alleged breach(s). The Director of Competition Enforcement is based at the offices of the Competition Authority, Parnell House, Parnell Square, Dublin 1.